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313. Radio Mercury Award Winners.

One of my favorite award shows - and one that I have been fortunate enough to win - is the annual Radio Mercury Awards. The show highlights the best and most creative radio spots across the country in several different categories and might just be one of the more difficult awards to come by. (The trophy, below, is certainly one of the coolest.) Whereas most award shows have hundreds of categories and sub-categories, the RMAs only give out about ten awards. They also give out cold hard cash to the top prize, $100,000 which was split by two teams for the first time ever this year. I like the format of radio because it is stripped down, bare-bones storytelling at its best (and worst) and there is simply no where to hide a bad idea. You have to be able to get the audience to buy into your narrative almost immediately and hold their attention using 1/3 of the tricks you can on television or online.

Our Very Cool RMA Award from 2008 for Clemson University:

This year's RMA's were held at The Nasdaq MarketSite in New York on Monday and like usual, flew a bit under the radar even within the industry. Radio is difficult and requires a lot of craft to do well and a lot of times isn't given the love within the agency world itself. So, I thought I would highlight the best of this year's show, doing my best to shine a bit more light where it is well-deserved.

The first winner in the general category comes from MINI via Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners and is titled Colonoscopy. When your whole life is out of whack, it helps to have a fun car to drive. I feel like this spot kind of sneaks up on you. By the time you get it, you want to hear what they do with the concept next. You most likely would be driving when you heard it which might contrast nicely with your comparatively un-fun car and making the spot that much more effective.

Lapiz, a self-titled Hispanic marketing firm that used to be the Hispanic arm of Leo Burnett, produced a winning spot for Bounty paper towels called Battle. This spot is a good example for using the medium for what it does best: great sound design. It is immediately interesting even if it takes awhile to figure it out. Most importantly it rewards that attention. It should be noted that this spot also won two gold lions this year at The Cannes Advertising Festival in both the radio and sound design categories. Not too shabby. (Of course this spot also won for the Spanish version, Batala which I actually find to have more entertaining voice performances.)

Craftsman tools were represented in this year's general category by a spot from Y&R called, Universe Diarama. On the surface this concept is a really dumb story, but it does a good job putting you right into the absurdity and the production value carries it until the end. I'm not sure this is exactly one of my favorites, but you can see how the storytelling nature of radio really comes through on all of these pieces.

Twin Cities agency Preston-Kelly (Ad Age Midwest small agency of the year) produced a campaign that featured a nice mix of outdoor and radio for the Y called fatpants. Fatpants became a rallying cry for the people joining the gym and they donated their old fatpants to the cause to be used on the outdoor boards. The radio is fairly standard but the fatpants concept really made all the pieces come together for the benefit of the client. If nothing else, this is a memorable approach and that's really all that you need sometimes. You want people to remember your story. You have to download the campaign pdf to listen to the spot.

Fatpants Outdoor:

Wongdoody's Dear Me campaign for the Washington Dept. of Health is a really personal narrative about people trying to quit smoking. The smokers wrote letters to themselves about quitting and you can hear the struggle in their voices. Contrary to the production on other spots - these are raw and work better for it. You can view a bunch of videos from which the radio spots were produced here.

In the PSA category (a personal favorite), Flying Brick Radio (a not so traditional radio-only agency) won with their rather funny spot for Operation Lifesaver; a small organization promoting safety around railroad tracks. Common Sense is a quickly paced, rhythmic 60 seconds of everyday advice that is produced shotgun-style out to the audience. There's a little something in it for everyone and one can't help but pay attention to each new piece of advice to see if it's funnier than the previous one. It does come to a rather abrupt stop as the actual organization is a bit odd to say the least, but they did something pretty good with a tough organization. They list a website at the end: which is unfortunately not nearly as interesting or engaging as the radio spot.

I think my favorite winning spot comes from the student category for Orkin and is called Mosquito Insanity. *The youngsters do like to name their stuff with exuberance, don't they? Anyway the spot is wonderful and comes across more as a comedy sketch than radio ad. It builds over the timeline of the piece and features a great read and impressive sound quality. Given that it's likely a spec piece this is an achievement. Kudos to the unnamed student from the Portfolio Center. Great job. Your spot made my skin itch.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Now while we're on the subject, I thought I would also post some of my favorite spots from years past. The grand prize winner from 2008 was produced for Motel 6 featuring the familiar voice of Tom Bodett who has narrated the budget ads since 1986. The winning spot created by The Richards Group is called DVD and features the world's first DVD actor's commentary radio spot. It's just a remarkably simple yet perfect piece of storytelling. It's rare that you want a spot to go on longer but I could have listened to five minutes of this.

Of course no award-winning radio spot article would be complete without at least mentioning DDB Chicago's Bud Light Real American Heroes campaign. (I think they changed the name to Real Men of Genius after 9/11). This campaign won the grand prize not only in 2000 (with Mr. Footlong Hot Dog Inventor) but also in 2001 (with Mr Pickled Pigs Feet Eater). 2 years in a row with one campaign - pretty impressive. As we all know, it's the background singer that makes these spots work. There I mentioned it.

Perennial funny agency - now sadly closed - Cliff Freeman & Partners won the award back in 1995 by producing Teacher for Staples. The spot hard sells a ton of different items for the retailer only they wrap it up in a story that is a common student experience. A human truth even. It's easy to see how both the client and creatives might have felt like they were getting away with something here.

I fell in love with radio as a good medium for storytelling with a campaign for Sobe that I don't believe ever garnered any awards, but that I really enjoyed. I believe it was done by Fallon and was called SoBeYourself. The campaign ran for about a year and featured great character VO from a guy named Freddy and witty writing, full of little jokes that you had to pay attention to. This still might be my favorite campaign based solely on storytelling. You can listen to a bunch of them here. I think it ran in 2002/03.

Okay, okay - just one more. The year I went to the RMA's there was a spot for a small real estate company (ShoreWest) that did something completely cool with a simple idea of how the radio in your car works. It invited user participation and told two stories at once. It was an incredibly cool idea and one that I wished I had done. How often have you thought that about a real estate ad? Listen to the spot on this page (close to the bottom).

So, this begs the question - What is your favorite radio spot of all-time?

(Oh, and why just download the whole set of this year's spots for your own enjoyment here.)


312. Beware of the Backseat.

Not much to say about this Smart Fourtwo spot from Germany other than it ran in movie theaters and is pretty entertaining. Given its placement, it's a fun way to talk about the car's lack of features much in the same way Volkswagen did in the sixties.

I should note that it's not really a banned ad. It just hasn't aired in the US and is almost four years old. I just like it and thought I would share after seeing it via one of my favorite sites out there: The super at the end translates into: No backseat. The Smart Fortwo.


311. The Verrazano Bridge of Advertising.

I had a professor in grad school who liked to say we were trying to build the Verrazano Bridge every time we attempted to logically connect two things that didn't make sense or when a concept was vague and overly complicated. Basically he was saying that our logic was a stretch and IF people 'got it,' it would take them a long time to get there.

Nothing I have seen demonstrates the metaphor better than this recent TVC developed by Leo Burnett London for Miller Genuine Draft. They are using clean graffiti—not an altogether original idea ever since UK artist Paul Curtis made a big splash a few years ago—to somehow demonstrate the idea that their beer is cold-filtered. The connection between clean graffiti and cold filtering or just between graffiti and filtering is sketchy at best. It needs to be explained as the spot tries to do in vain. "Sometimes it’s what’s underneath that counts, you just have to reveal it." Uh, okay. Welcome to Brooklyn friends.

See if you can make sense of the spot below (forgive the long intro):

Granted, the spot is just one small part of the campaign at large - as the press release says, "To support the launch, Miller Genuine Draft has also commissioned the biggest ever real clean art advertising campaign that will involve using clean art to communicate the campaign message on pavements, walls and bars in key urban areas." There's even an outdoor concert series called The Miller Filtered Music Program. (Not sure why I want my music filtered but whatever.)

Clean Graffiti. Clean Art. Reverse Graffiti. All the rage in '07:

I'm fine with using 'clean art' as the medium if you want to use something that was 'happening' in 2007; I just can't figure why they are trying to connect it to cold filtering. Makes no sense and isn't even necessary as the medium doesn't always have to be the message. As my professor Coz Cotzias from the BrandCenter would say, "They're trying to cross the Verrazano with that." Well he'd say it better and with more expletives, but you get the point.

And just for your general curiosity, The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is a double-decked suspension bridge that connects the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn in New York City at the Narrows, the reach connecting the relatively protected upper bay with the larger lower bay. The bridge is named for Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first known European navigator to enter New York Harbor and the Hudson River, while crossing The Narrows. It has a center span of 4,260 feet (1,298 m) and was the largest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its completion in 1964. All that courtesy of Wikipedia.


310. Design in Tow.

Nevada treated me to a surprisingly beautiful day of driving. Drive 6,200 miles like I did this month and you'll see lots of bad driving, accidents, almost-accidents, texting-while-driving, road-rage, and your fair share of general recklessness. (The good news is that you'll also see lots of courtesy and consideration all across the country—so there's still hope for humanity yet.) However, let there be no doubt that the road is a dangerous place full of people with varying degrees of driving skills, attitudes and experience. 

For the most part the rules of the road try to minimize the risk and add organization and order to this chaos. A well-marked exit reduces the risk of having someone cut in front of you (and three lanes) to make it in time. A sign on the back of a big rig lets you know he has a huge blind spot and allows you to adjust your following distance. And signs of all sorts portend of changing road conditions—like the Damaged Road sign I came across in Wyoming. Had I not slowed down I'm sure I would have bounced right off the highway. Or have been swallowed whole by the road. It was really damaged. VW Beetle sized pot holes. No joke. Design obviously plays a big part in making such warnings easy to read, noticeable and actionable. And for the most part in the US, it all works pretty well.

There was one thing that I observed during my travels this summer that could use a little design thinking to improve the situation. No less than five times I watched as one car swerved into the path of another car that was pulling a trailer of some sort only to correct themselves just in the nick of time. All five drivers assumed the other vehicle's end was the vehicle's end not guessing the car's length was increased two to three-fold by a trailer. Yes, this problem could easily be avoided by reminding drivers to wait longer before making a passing or switching lane maneuver. But if I'm pulling a trailer behind my truck I'd like to increase my odds of not having someone swerve into the path of what I'm towing. Call me crazy, but people seem to have an issue with this.

Here's the problem in more detail.

First you notice you have to merge right to make an exit but there is a vehicle in the way. The exit is coming up but you have to slow to let the car on the right pass. This is what you see in your right window as the car passes. Remember that you'll need to get over rather quickly to make your exit:

This is what you'd hit if you try to merge too closely to the car's back-end, which can be necessary in some situations such as tight traffic or in a scenario when someone isn't giving you enough space to make a more careful maneuver.

Hey, that car is pulling a trailer! It's not always obvious. Sometimes the trailers are not as tall as the car that is pulling it, so your rear-view will not disclose the extra vehicle length. If the trailer rides low or is really short in height, this makes it even easier to miss. And this obviously works when the towing vehicle passes you too. For instance, if you are trying to merge into the left lane to pass a vehicle and follow a car 'secretly' in tow, the same situation arises. If you pull into the lane too early you'll merge directly into the trailer. Like I said, I've seen this happen many times and on five separate occasions on just this last trip alone.

The problem in graphic form. The blue car can't see the dark car's trailer and merges right into it while pulling in behind the car from either side. So here's the proposal. If an ordinary passenger car or truck is pulling a trailer, they have a magnetized (or vinyl cling) warning emblem placed on their vehicle that informs the cars around them that they are in fact, in tow. It's a simple low-cost solution that would be extremely easy to implement. Even if U-haul was the only company to implement it, three of the close calls I observed may have been prevented. I assume that if you have enough money to buy or rent a trailer (let alone have something worth towing in the first place) you can afford a five to ten dollar magnet. U-haul—and such companies—could provide these magnets as part of their regular equipment. Sure, it's not going to make your car prettier, but neither is that dumb peeing Calvin decal or that 'My kid got your honor roll student pregnant' bumper sticker. (Yeah, I saw one of these. Gross.) Anyway, this isn't about aesthetics, it's about safety.

The In Tow Magnet/Cling at work:

In terms of design, we use a clear symbol of a trailer set in the direction that it's being towed, within an arrow pointing in the same direction. The magnet is cut in the shape of this arrow and would be produced in warning colors or either neon green, construction orange, or high-visibility yellow. Like most warning systems, the decal would be manufactured with reflective qualities making it visible during night towing. The driver could choose a color to best contrast the color of the car he is driving, and place one decal on each of his or her back fenders. Pretty simple.

Nobody. I mean nobody expects an old Saturn to be towing anything:

The In Tow Magnets/Clings:

Even if they've never seen this magnet the fact that it is there might give the driver next to you pause—enough of a pause to help prevent an accident. If the magnets were to be implemented on a wide scale, or even a legal requirement, then everyone would know to look for them. A win in either case.

Just something I was thinking about on a long stretch of road in Colorado. Not sure if anyone makes something like this or not, but I think it's a good idea. Over and out.


309. Returning to the Firehouse.

2010 has been a crazy adventure so far. It brought a rather quick and unexpected exit from Dubai. (I now know what it's like to be an illegal worker in a foreign country, so check that box. Ha.) It also brought an opportunity to team up with longtime friend and writing funny guy, Jon Runkle, in Los Angeles for freelance gigs. As a team we worked on a lot of interesting projects with great agencies and were blessed with being truly busy this spring/summer. (Amazingly enough, we're still friends.) But 2010 also brought with it an almost nonstop contemplation of my future in advertising and design. What do I want to be doing? Where do I want to do it? How can I challenge myself while also using my strengths to their fullest? I was definitely at a crossroads and had serious discussions with industrial design firms, production companies, design studios, in-house teams, portfolio schools and traditional universities, digital shops, non-profit marketing firms and many ad agencies of course. I was exploring every possibility and figuring out what I wanted in my career. Most of the time, it felt like I was the one doing the interviewing.

Some people think advertising is dying. I think advertising is fun again. The rules not only have changed, they've evaporated. There is a chance to do work that defies definition but is also more personal and interesting for consumers and producers of media alike. I knew that I wanted to be in a place that is looking to do both cutting-edge and heartfelt work. A place that is as passionate about ethics as it is about advertising. A place that wants to tell good stories. And most importantly I wanted to surround myself with the smartest and nicest people I could find. That old adage about aspiring to be the dumbest person in the room works. So, I tried to find smart people.

And boy did I; most notably the cool guys starting High, Wide & Handsome in LA, the wonderful folks at Echo::Factory, the amazing people at Lunar, the gang at Current, a few gracious CDs at TBWA, Stephen at Savannah College of Art & Design, Jocelyn at T3 in Austin, Lauren at W+K (even though she lost my hardbound 200 page creative process book — just kidding Lauren), my new contact at Sapient Nitro, and the whole group doing good at Free Range Studios amongst many, many, many others. I'm not trying to drop names here - I am simply thankful for the time and consideration each of these companies gave to my possible employment. I am always humbled when someone calls back and says, "Hey, we like your stuff. Let's talk." Especially companies such as these.

After many months, I did finally find the perfect place, an opportunity fraught with more serendipity than usual, as I never was formally interviewed. We just talked about possibilities. Talked about the business. Talked about their business. Talked about what I was looking for. Met with some of the gang. And it just sort of happened, which is hilarious given all the time and effort I was putting into finding the perfect job while freelancing. This one found me.

On September first, I will be joining Engine Company 1 in San Francisco. A great little place full of talent, experience, heart and potential to be an increasingly mighty player in this crazy ever-changing industry. I will be working with two former Creative Directors of mine plus another partner I am just getting to know. As a matter of fact I feel like I am rewinding four years before I decided to leave Grant, Scott & Hurley as well as San Francisco in 2006. Few people get a chance to do things over and I feel like this is definitely one such chance. I am coming back with a lot more experience, a little bit more wisdom, some lessons learned and victories won and even a few awards to throw into the trash bin at EC1. (All of their creative awards are tossed into a bin. Yes, you can see them but the point is made: those are yesterday's awards.)

EC1's Introduction Video:

I've had the pleasure of driving around the country the last four weeks before the new job begins, making time to visit family and friends - an embarrassingly long overdue trip. It was a joy telling them about my new creative home and knowing that at the end of the journey was another journey; which will make the rest of 2010 just as crazy and exciting as the first part. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


308. New Virgin Atlantic Livery.

I do like a new livery, though I'm not sure what my fascination is with them. I just can't resist posting about them, especially when it's a farily high-profile airline. And they get no higher-profile than Virgin Atlanttic.

Virgin Atlantic unveiled a new livery and new logo this week with the usual Virgin fanfare. The biggest difference is the logotype, which I think will become the standard identity for the airline, though it's a bit unclear if that is the case at the moment. The Virgin Atlantic letters are now set in a lightweight custom drawn typeface (Chalet-esque) and appears in their secondary purple color. It's quite a bit different than their old futuristic sans. And it might just be me, but I really need more room between my straight-sided letterforms than this. (I'd give a little more room between the 'i' and 'r', and 'g-i-n', as well as a few pairs within 'atlantic') The identity still features the Virgin tailfin and doesn't lose too much in recognition as a result. But the tailfin itself has been updated to better reflect the actual plane, with a curved base and a placement that is always meant to graphically convey the fuselage and tail. The way the pieces are arranged I like a lot, even if those pieces are not perfect.

Old Virgin Atlantic Identity:

New Virgin Atlantic Identity:

London brand agency, Circus, was commissioned in 2008 to update the brand but the new livery and logo were developed by Johnson Banks. This is the result of their work. Not only has the main identity changed but there are other adjustments to the livery of each plane featuring names like Maiden Tokyo, Ladybird, Miss Kitty and Tinker Belle. The Lady carrying the flag - a graphic of just that appearing near the cockpit- has also been slightly updated and the flag enlarged.

Previous Lady:

Best Shot of the New Lady:

Copyright Neil French - Airliners. net -'s a bit from the official Virgin press release: "The Virgin Atlantic name, previously on the front end of the fuselage is now emblazoned large across the whole of the aircraft in a fine custom drawn font. In addition, the undercarriage of the aircraft now features the new Virgin Atlantic logo in dark purple - making the aircraft more easily identifiable when taking off and landing.  The winglets are now red with the Virgin script on the inner side, visible to passengers on board the plane. The iconic, flag carrying flying lady, who appears on all Virgin Atlantic aircraft, has been rejuvenated with a subtle cosmetic makeover and enhanced detailing - now fluttering a larger Union Jack."

Branding Samples:

Apparently a special painting procedure was developed specifically for this project too. Or at least it's new to the airline industry. The process is intended to give the livery a highly reflective metallic shine. It also is pretty durable needing repainting only after a decade.

Even though I hesitate to be critical of a company that so clearly acknowledges and utitlizes the power of design, I can pretty much sum up my feelings about the redesign with these words: unnecessary and generic. It loses recognition unless it's paired with another very identifiable mark (the Virgin script / tailfin itself). I'm curious if the new logotype will run 'by itself' or not. I kind of liked the previous logotype, alterations to terminals and arms and tittles be darned. What works best about this redesign comes from the old standards (color scheme though slightly updated, use of negative space, cleanliness and overall crispness). One thing is certain, I'm ready for this generic lower case sans movement to be over. And I know I'm not the only one. Of course the design firm behind this is usually pretty stellar and their implementation throughout all the materials an airline would need is top-notch. It's just the actual design seems again, unnecessary—as they just updated five years ago or so; and generic - the new type is forgettable and not an improvement on the old. In my opinion I like a little visual strength in my airline and this feels too fragile. Too lightweight and easily blown away. Not something I want to associate with an airline. All this being said, it still will be one of the better looking airline identities out there, next to Delta in my humble opinion. (It's never humble when someone says this is it?)

Side View of New Livery:

An Official Video from Virgin:


307. Hi-Fi for Bella Vista Social Pub.

Seldom can you write about a topic over a day old on this here internet and still be considered a timely source for news. I'm really pushing my luck on this piece as the project below is not just one day old, or one week old, or even a month old - It's over a year old. Well, it was posted to the internet about a year ago, but that is like a century in the cloud. Anyway, if you've seen this already then by all means skip to the bottom of the post, make sure you are subscribed to our RSS feed and following our Twitter posts and be on your way. If you haven't seen this then you are in for a treat. And I'm going to try to break it down into a little more detail than what has been done in the past.

Italian venue The Bella Vista Social Pub in Siena, Tuscany and one-name director Bante collaborated to promote their summer series of jazz concerts which is itself a celebration of Blue Note Record's 70th Anniversary. The resulting promotional piece called Hi-Fi is a wonderful bit of motion graphics and absolute timeless cool.

Most of you know about Blue Note, the preeminent postwar jazz label that published every important artist in hard bop jazz until declining in importance in the '60s and '70s. There was a particular style that the album covers had that somehow managed to capture the cool, yet moody vibe of the music with perfect type, color and composition. Under designer Reid Miles, the album covers comprise one of the more impressive and important case studies for graphic design. Miles is truly one of my favorites and although it's difficult to find out much about his life and biography - his work is thankfully everywhere. The Bella Vista Social Pub's video is as much a tribute to Miles as it is to Blue Note jazz. There is also a little historical tidbit that is quite interesting; Reid Miles wasn't a big fan of jazz and actually preferred classical music. Usually he didn't even listen the album for which has was designing which would be considered heresy today but it's hard to argue with the resulting work.

For the Bella Vista project, Director Bante (real name Stefano Tinti) re-imagines some of the more important album covers as moving pictures and manages to make them come to life. The type moves, color bounces, and the images breathe. Jazz feels as contemporary as ever and I think Miles (as well as the other Blue Note artists) would be very proud of this piece. Let's watch the video in all it's ultra too cool for school glory and then we'll compare the stills with the original album covers.

Hi-Fi For The Bella Vista Social Pub:

As you can see in the following side by side comparison the typography doesn't always match perfectly. In some cases it doesn't matter, but in a few instances I wish they were closer. There are some examples where the inexactness works even better than the original, or maybe I should say there are moments when the new version complements the spirit of the old if not to the letter. All in all it's a wonderful tribute to a an amazing time in both music and design.

A Side by Side Comparison of My Favorite Frames. (Original on the Right, Hi-Fi Still on the Left). Click on the image for a slightly larger version.

The type of the new (on the right) doesn't match perfetly that of the original (on the left) but the movement really makes this album cover shine.

You immediately know the reference if not a perfect mirror match. The color halftone treatment of the video does a nice job of honoring the cover.

This is my favorite. It really only hints at the original but somehow captures everything about it. The motion makes this new version a contemporary take on the old.

A funny example of all the elements being somehow different but as a whole manages to be a perfect reproduction. C'mon this is so cool.

Different Dog. Different Chicken. But totally an appropriate remake.

I would liked to have seen a checkered suit in the new, but the face to face type treatment makes this piece.

This is nice even though he looks more like Diddy than Herbie here.

Add some noise to the version on the left, you'd be hard pressed to guess which one came first. The backlit woman just works. You can see they changes the composition for Hi-Fi to arrange around a slightly different image but the Cooper Black ties them together.

Makes me want to update my Facebook profile pic with me next to a nice hubcap.

Futura. Black and white photography. AND a puppy? Too much. A nice tribute to the original and is there a better jazz name than Elmo Hope? I think not.

I think these hats are back in fashion and a nice condensed sans usually works too.

A classic. Updated with class. And that's a great smile don't ya think?

I think I prefer the new layout for this example. The lamp provides a nice backbone for the typography.

I might have to steal two ball-serif J's for my own brand. Love it.

This might be one where the photography of the original expressed some serious emotion that the new version lacks; but the type is a nice update and overall you are aware of the reference.



306. It's Electrifying. The Volt's First Ads.

GM is set to launch the much anticipated Volt later this year and will likely sell every single one of them without needing to advertise significantly. It's not really a mass production vehicle and won't be until the line extends into other vehicles like the rumored small-cuv and smaller sedan over the next year or two. It's looking more and more likely that it will be accepted warmly, which would help the resurgent automaker.

According to the many sources, GM plans to launch the Volt in a few markets initially, New York City and Austin, TX rumored to among them and have begun to tease the product. I have posted the tease video and print ad that ran recenlty in the New York Times that will give you a taste of what's to come.

Let's Talk about the video first. Being the ultimate tease, the video shows nothing of the vehicle's exterior (or interior for that matter) and instead focuses on the driver experience driving down a beautiful curvy road. This is smart because the driving experience is somewhat unique and the short film feels appropriately optmistic. "Hey, we can keep loving our car just like we always have - it will be just a bit different." A good tone to hit. And since this might just be the best-covered automotive launch in history we've already seen enough of Volt photography. What's not to like is the copywriting.

Status Quo Crumbling Video

I don't mind the line about the status quo crumbling. It's cliche and expected and somehow smaller than what this should really be but it does the job. But after that the copy falls flat into puns and trite expressions. "Breathtaking isn't it?" Meh. And campaign tagline is worse still:  "It's electrifying. And it's coming this winter." Writing is an art of nuance. One word can really make a big difference and style can set the tone of a piece not to mention an entire campaign. The copy on this teaser really feels a few decades too old to be on this piece. I know it's just a teaser. But it's a teaser for the most important product launch for one of our country's most important companies. It deserves better.

The print ad that ran in the New York Times doesn't fare much better in terms of messaging. I'll spare a more detailed review and let you do your own, but let's just say that if you do read the first line - you don't have to read the rest. You know how it's going to go. And it feels way way too boring for such a cool product. Like I said this is just a teaser but I have a lot of expectations for the marketing of this product. And with well-respected agency Goodby, Silversteain & Partners behind the work you can bet they will be pushing for a quality ad product on par with the vehicle. I just wish these market teasers felt more epic, more groundbreaking and more status-quo crumbling instead of just telling me that it is. It will be intersting to see where this all goes and to be honest I wish I were a part of this creative development. It's an important campaign.

The New York Times (they get everything first) Print:


304. Nike Abandons Cleveland.

Perhaps you have seen or heard a little bit about Lebron James leaving his current team and signing with two other famous players in Miami. It was a fairly understated and subtle affair, so if you missed it that's quite understandable. To get you caught up, James was a free agent and kept everyone guessing up until the last moment as to whether he would stay with his hometown team, The Cleveland Cavaliers, or leave for any number of other teams; The New York Knicks, The Los Angeles Clippers, The Miami Heat or The New Jersey Nets. Teams had been planning for James' free agency for two even three years, saving money and dumping contracts so they'd have a shot at the star player. Free agency is a pretty standard aspect of modern professional sports. What was not standard was James sending out misinformation and then launching a one-hour special dedicated only to announce this decision. The special show that aired on ESPN on Thursday was even called The Decision, smacking of the over-hyped ridiculous self-importance that is all too prevalent in sports. It was anything but classy.

Most astute fans knew that Lebron was going to face scrutiny after the show no matter what he decided. By making a spectacle of the announcement he was causing undue problems for himself. Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk said it best, "He either ends up on national television to break Cleveland's heart, or he has an hour-long special on himself to say he is going nowhere. Both options have public relations problems to deal with."

Lebron's (and Nike's) Billboard being taken down in Cleveland:
AP Photo/Mark Duncan

What is not being talked about is the effect on Nike. More specifically: Lebron James has been Nike basketball for years now, somewhat taking Jordan's place as the brand's icon. Since Lebron is leaving Cleveland for Miami, there is also the appearance that Nike is leaving Cleveland. All those images of Cleveland fans burning James' shoes and jerseys and posters and t-shirts are also images of fans burning Nike's brand. How can the discontent of millions of midwestern basketball fans not spill over onto the most visible part of Lebron James' persona, that of Nike spokesperson? Lebron has abandoned Cleveland and Nike may have as well. At least that is the common perspective on things.

Nike Witness T-shirt On Wednesday:

Nike Witness T-shirt On Thursday:

When I saw the image of the We Are All Witnesses Nike billbaord featuring #23 being torn down on ESPN this morning, it became pretty clear that Nike's presence in Cleveland is being torn down as well. The fact that there has been so much backlash for how The Decision (sic) was handled, means that the actions of the sponsored has dirtied that of sponsor simply by association. I'm surprised someone in Nike's camp didn't throw themselves in front of this dumb idea for a show and prevent such bad publicity. Now they are facing the same public ire that the player is - after all, Nike was the lens through which most fans experienced James. Yes, we all witnessed what happened this week and are feeling pretty ugly about it. As a matter of fact the We Are All Witnesses campaign has become a point of parody for fans to communicate their disgust. Chants of Witness Disloyalty or Witness A Traitor can probably be heard today ringing down not just the streets of Cleveland but throughout a lot of other B-level cities in America.

We All Witnessed It Alright:
Source: AP Photo/The Plain Dealer,Marvin Fong

So what is Nike to do? Do they sponsor another player that comes to Cleveland and try to fill that gap? That would be next to impossible as James cast a pretty large shadow especially since the town felt like they had raised James since high school. Does Nike just lay low and let this story die down? I feel like that is giving an opportunity to other marketers to do some timely marketing of their own. Were I Adidas or Reebok (heck And 1 or Under Armor) I would take this chance and respond in some way using clever advertising and try to endear fans (not just in Cleveland) to their brand instead.

You can't separate Lebron (The LJ23 King icon) and Nike. Although I do look forward to the future design around his new number six.

Maybe Nike works with Lebron and does something classy, publicly thanking Cleveland fans for all that they've done for him over the years? There is a big risk of that feeling insincere, especially while Bosh, Wade and James sign contacts and dance gleefully in front of the Miami fans and a worldwide audience - which has been going on for the last two days as of this article's writing. As Rob Shuster said in ESPN's Bill Simmons' latest mailbag article: "(What Lebron did is) Like dangling an engagement ring in front of your longtime girlfriend, then getting on your knee at the bar and proposing to a girl you met last week. (We're) Completely destroyed." All of this sponsored by Nike albeit indirectly.

It's going to be difficult to Fill Lebron's Void:

We've seen the risks of focusing one's brand on a single player's persona. If that player runs into trouble with the law, your brand looks bad. If it turns out that the player has a little trouble staying faithful to his wife, your brand is aligned with that. And if your star decides to stick a knife in the back of an entire region of the country in the most visible manner possible, your brand is aligned with that too. I will argue that the last scenario is by far the stickiest because it is oddly somehow less forgivable. Some will say that Lebron James is a symbol for all that is wrong with sports. Sport is now about money and economy over fans and loyalty. It's about long-term lucrative contracts over only slightly less long and barely less lucrative contracts. It's more about business and less about the game. And guess who some people are going to blame for this? The big time advertisers and Nike in this particular instance. They will be seen as part of the problem in sports and ironically that's really bad business for the brand. Will Anyone in Cleveland buy a pair of Nikes again at least without wincing like an abused dog?

It's not like Lebron is doing this quietly:

Yes Lebron James left Cleveland. And he took Nike with him. Now what? This is a question I'm betting is being tossed around the halls of agency Wieden + Kennedy and in Beaverton, Oregon where Nike is headquartered.


303. Please like me. Please really really really like me!

Image from Nike's United Countries of Baseball PrintPolitical campaign television advertising has a long and icky history. In contemporary times we’ve grown accustomed to the black and white footage to poorly portray the “other” guy as hard “facts” are drilled into our ear canals. While sadly effective, it usually makes the viewer feel as if they’ve just been given a full body lick from someone who hasn’t brushed their teeth in eight months. Well there have been some new entries into the genre, and they aren’t necessarily running for office. They’re running for roster spots.

The 2010 Major League Baseball All Star Game is next Tuesday, July 13th and while the teams have already been filled out from a mix of fan votes and manager decisions, a couple of spots are up in the air. Starting in 2002, MLB began the All Star Final Vote where the fans could choose from a list of finalist for the final spot for both the National and American League. While most teams have done a decent job of campaigning for the final spot on behalf of the candidates through website callouts and scoreboard signage, the players have yet to really grasp the opportunity themselves. Until now.

Nick Swisher of the New York Yankees, a man with an almost irritating wealth of personality, has eagerly taken his own fate into his hands using the means at his immediate disposal: Youtube.

The Swisher Campaign Spot:

Not to be outdone by the Empire State basher, Boston Red Sox fans, and more accurately, have chosen to respond on behalf of 3rd basemen Kevin Youkilis with a little more humor, wit and style.

The Response From The Youkilis Camp:

It’ll be interesting to watch the evolution of this vote and other sports related fan votes to see what forms of media and creative outlets the athletes take advantage of in the future. One gets the feeling that this is merely the beginning.

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